A long, interesting and spirited defence of the role and importance of the Netroots, from the latest Boston Review. The New York Times columnist David Brooks writes that Kos “fires up his Web site . . . and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way.” The New Republic senior editor Lee Siegel (now suspended) warns portentously of the dangers of “blogofascism,” a movement bearing worrying similarities to the Fascist forces that transformed post–World War I Europe into a “madhouse of deracinated ambition.” ... These claims are hysterical to the point of near-incoherence. They’re also wrong. The netroots are becoming a power in the Democratic Party, but they aren’t under the control of any one person or clique.
After fending off the critics, the piece also has a few ideas about what comes next.
Creating a coherent ideological agenda will be far harder for the netroots than opposing Republicans or turncoat Democrats like Joe Lieberman. But it offers enormous political possibilities. The “new” union movement of the SEIU and the Change to Win coalition provides one example of how it might be done. As prominent netroots bloggers recognize, the SEIU has a lot in common with the netroots—it aims to replace a top-heavy structure with a more dynamic and aggressive approach to union organizing. But it is also providing organizational firepower and intellectual input for John Edwards’s campaign to change the economic message of the Democratic Party, and to make it more attractive to voters whose economic interests have been trampled by Republicans and their enablers.
Under President Bush significant ground has been lost. When he took office, North Korea was adhering to a negotiated freeze on plutonium and may have possessed enough plutonium for one nuclear device. Since then, North Korea may have more than quadrupled its stock of weapons-grade plutonium and breached all previous constraints on its program. Under the Bush administration, North Korea has expelled international nuclear inspectors, withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and produced enough new weapons-grade plutonium for a number of nuclear weapons.
There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about political narratives and story arcs. One I happen to believe is very germane to the times we live in is that the next stage of our history will be defined by those who work to clean up the mess of the Bush years. We need to "clean up the mess."
The mess is our foreign policy, economic policy and in our vision of what the role of government is and does. Lets reviews news from the last few days to get just the latest manifestation of their failures. North Korea explodes a nuclear device. Taliban resurgent in Afghanistan. Iraq is spinning out of control, and now seems to be on the road either to a major civil war or becoming a failed state. Only 51,000 jobs were created last month. The Republican Leaders in Washington fan out across the country to defend their decision to put a known sexual predator in charge of the Committee for Missing and Exploited Children. A 2nd senior White House official, Susan Ralston, Karl Rove's right hand, resigns over their ties to Abramoff. Bush unilaterally decides to ignore portions of the new Homeland Security bill.
The scale of the governing challenge in front of us is captured by Fareed Zakaria in today's Washington Post: "When Iraq's government was formed in April, after four months of bitter disputes, wrangling and paralysis, many voices in America and Iraq said the next six months would be the crucial testing period. That was a fair expectation. It has now been six months, and we have seen bitter disputes, wrangling and paralysis. Meanwhile the violence has gotten worse, sectarian tensions have risen steeply and ethnic cleansing is in full swing. There is really no functioning government south of Kurdistan, only power vacuums that have been filled by factions, militias and strongmen. It is time to call an end to the tests, the six-month trials, the waiting and watching, and to recognize that the Iraqi government has failed. It is also time to face the terrible reality that America's mission in Iraq has substantially failed."
Our governing party is a mess and can no longer be counted on to lead America in a challening era. They have failed at virtually everything they have tried to do, but the world has not slowed down, our problems have not just magically gone away. Our movement has done a remarkable job fighting the great PR machine of the governing party, so evident even in the last few days. We should be proud of how we've stood firm, fought back and helped weaken their hold on power. But in the months ahead, regardless of what happens in the fall elections, we now have to get serious about cleaning up the mess they've created, and building a governing coalition true to our democratic heritage, and ready to tackle the challenges of our time.
No matter what happens this fall, it sure seems like we are coming to the end of a particular era in American history. From the highest vantage point it may be the end of the great 20th century battle between progressivism and conservatism; a little lower down it may be the end of the Bush era; and a little lower, the end of the Hastert-DeLay-Abramoff reign of corruption, unseriousness and extreme partisanship in the House.
NDN has been commentating a great deal these last few years about the utter failure of conservative governance. And certainly the American people have grown weary of these conservatives inability to tackle the important challenges of our time. But I think we may also be witnessing a growing weariness of the spin, deceit, lying and proproganda that has also been a defining characteristic of this era. After years of this over-the-top win at all costs proproganda strategy, Americans are beginning to distrust everything that comes from a Republican or conservative mouth. The world is just not as they describe it, tarnishing their brand in a way so elemental that it will be hard to restore in the years ahead.
Think about it. Rice just lying again and again about the run up to 9/11. Hastert's unbelievable lies these past few days, and desperate attempts to paint the Foley scandal as a Democratic one. Fox News's repeated and purposeful identification of Foley as a Democrat on the air. Progress in Iraq. Wages are rising. No one knew the levees could break. No one in the Administration sanctioned the torture of people in Iraq. It is all bullsh-t.
As progressives who have a proud history of making government work for the common good, we will have to spend time better understanding and changing this culture of untruth. Democracy requires an informed citizenry. But in this era, it would be more accurate to say we have a "misinformed" people, as the government itself, backed by fierce partisan like Fox News, Limbaugh, Hannity and Drudge spew purposeful lies and falsehoods each day.
A great deal of the energy of the early 21st century progressive era has been to counter this culture of deceit. It has been effective so far, unearthing the strategic nature of this proproganda machine. And you can see it in the most effective political ads of this cycle, many of which have the candidate, unadorned, speaking directly to camera, trying desperately to reconnect voters to an actual person, a true event, a real set of beliefs, reality.
I'm not sure how our movement and our nation should approach all this going forward. But it is clear that the American people have an inkling of all this themselves, and like a TV show whose characters no longer speak with the same authority as at the beginning of its run, people are reaching for the remote and are looking for a politics that better speaks to them and the challenges, culture and values of our time. We call it "a new politics," and I believe what we will see in the next few years is a fierce battle between the two great ideological movements to identify and claim it for their very own.
First Time reports that Fidel Castro is terminally ill. For a look at how the Cuban-American community views the coming Post-Castro era see our new just-released study.
And a Washington Post piece may have ended Speaker Hastert's political career today. The story has a 2nd staffer confirming the story of Tom Reynold's former Chief of Staff that Hastert and his team knew about Foley as early as 2003. The account seems to make it clear that Hastert and his whole team have been repeatedly lying about their covering up for a sexual predator.
I am proud of our small but talented NDN team. At a critical time for our nation, a nation so desperate to find a new and better path, it is clear that they are stepping up and taking a big swing part. In the last few weeks we've offered a powerful and wide-ranging body of work. that has gotten a great deal of attention, and is clearly helping shape the national debate.
I offer a quick review, without links, as all can be found on www.ndn.org:
- Our globalization initiative has released a series of compelling studies, from fashioning a new consensus on trade liberalization to a series of peices on wages to a review of the Bush economic record, and our Senior Policy Analyst James Crabtree keeps banging it out each day on our blog;
- On the Hispanic front, the NDN political fund's Mas Que un Partido campaign launched a new national radio ad; along with our friends at PowerPac we released a new poll of Spanish-prefered Latino voters in CA; our daily Spanish-language talking points email to Spanish-media continues; along with Sergio Bendixen we released an influential new study about the changing attitudes of Cubans in Miami in the early days of the Post-Castro era, and was picked up in the Washington Post, Newsweek, many Florida papers, and Business week; and on Monday we launch a 2nd media campaign, this one with the CPC, that will put Spanish-language ads on the air in AZ and CO in support of the minimum wage ballot initiatives in those states;
- NPI has had an incredible couple of weeks, releasing two new pieces of our Tools campaign, papers on Buy Cable and Engage the Blogs; but of course the big news is the launching of a new web 2.0 site for NPI, www.newpolitics.net, that allows us our own tools to practice what we preach about the new media;
- This week we also gave our blog a new and much more media rich look, one that will better help us bring our agenda, ideas and values to you each day; readership of the blog has increased dramatically as we've offered a much better product in recent months;
- Our daily commentary got wide pick-up outside our blog, particularly a seies of piece we wrote on the Condi Rice's serial lying about the run-up to 9/11;
- and we continued to appear regularly in publications from the New York Times to Wired to the Nation.
As I sit here on rainy Saturday morning here in DC wondering what to do with my kids today, I reflect with pride on what our whole NDN team has done these last couple of weeks, and thank them for stepping up at what is a critical time for our nation.
I sent a national email out yesterday asking our friends and family for help, one more time. As you are well aware, we have important things still left to do this year. Here it is, and if you have a little left in your political wallet for NDN and our affiliate, the NDN political fund, we will put it to good use:
"This is a critical time for our country. With conservatives stumbling, progressives have a real chance to reassert our values and our agenda. We at NDN are hard at work making this happen.
But for us to keep our agenda moving forward, I need your help. If you are going to support NDN and our path breaking work this year, the time is now.
Your support for NDN will allow us to help break the conservative ideological hold on our politics in three concrete ways:
Put more ads on the air in more places – NDN and its affiliate, the NDN political fund, are running two media campaigns designed to speak to and engage Hispanic communities across the country. Your support will help us put more ads on in more places, expanding these powerful campaigns.
Beat the conservatives in the economic debate – Your support will help us continue to challenge the conservatives in the national debate over the economy, and offer more progressives the facts and arguments needed to beat them. This is no idle act - in recent polls, the economy is the number one issue facing the American people.
Help progressives deploy the latest and best New Tools – A fast-changing media environment is creating a set of new tools that can help progressives reach more people more effectively at this critical time. Your support will help The New Politics Institute continue their “New Tools” campaign to help progressives fight for our agenda more effectively.
The NDN team is proven and accomplished. Our advisors include some of the most remarkable people in progressive politics. Our work is cutting edge. If you choose to support us in these final days I promise your money will make a real difference at this pivotal moment.
As we approach the final weeks of the campaigns, just wanted to point out a few progressive efforts at distributed net outreach:
The DSCC has a volunteer "badge" that you can add to your blog, myspace page, etc. as a tool to drive volunteers to Senate campaigns. it allows you to customize it for the races you most care about and want to point volunteers to...
MoveOn.org's "Call for Change" internet based volunteer phone banking is live...They are attempting to generate "5 million phone calls into 30 highly competitive congressional districts plus selected Senate races..."
And both Myspace and Facebook launched voter registration drives, that make it easier to reach out to your social network and get folks registered... Speaking of Facebook, they just launched "election pulse" where you can see various politician's facebook profiles organized by their district or state race and it how many "friends" each of the candidates has on the social network...
As I've just moved to DC, and have had to re-register the Chambers clan to vote, I'd personally vouch for GoVote.org run by Working Assets as a great online tool to register yourself and to point friends to. It made the process almost painless.... If anyone else has seen innovative uses of the net and new media please post in the comments here...
The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, a coalition opposed to the state’s abortion ban, successfully blocked the July 1st enactment of the law by gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. Earlier this month, the coalition launched its statewide television advertising campaign to educate South Dakota voters about the lack of exceptions in the country's most extreme abortion ban.
Pro-choice groups feel that at least 12 other states are currently lined up to introduce similar abortion bans and there will probably be more.What happens in South Dakota on election-day is going to affect women's lives across America.Both sides agree that the debate will intensify and be argued state-by-state, as well as at the national level in Washington. Any abortion law is likely to be challenged, with the final decision left to the Supreme Court. This year, the high court will review a federal law that bans a late-term procedure that critics call a partial birth abortion. Lower courts have struck down the ban, which Congress approved in 2003.